Thursday, May 23, 2013

CIAO, COLUMBIA (updated)

Here is St. Petersburg, we've had yet another controversial "improvement" latched onto by our muddle-minded City Council. At one point, one worthy woman stated that the voters didn't know their own minds, so the City Council had to make it up for them. I will not go into how stupid elected officials can be, we are witness to too much criminal idiocy from Washington every single day.
This time, for us, it's the demolishing of the not-so-very-old Pier (see photo right)  and its replacement with a Frank Gehry wannabe thing of absolutely no esthetic value (but worth one helluva lot to developers and contrcution companies). This thing is called The Lens, and its sails and  flying protruberances (think of a hybrid with Bilbao Museum and Sydney's Opera House by way of a WalMart committee with the designer of Kim Kardashian's camo gown as chairperson) will make Bilbao's outwardly stunning (I never did get the interior) museum look like very small pesos indeed.
The present inverted pyramid Pier beloved by tourists replaced, two decades ago, an older Spanish style (the basic traditional architecture of St. Pete) edifice. Now we'll go 21st Century. Yippee.
So what's that to you? Not much, unless you have dined at the glass-walled Columbia Restaurant, on the fourth floor of the Pier. It closes in less than two weeks, so we went there for a last hurrah. One of a half dozen branches of the venerable Ybor City (Tampa) restaurant, the food is classic Cuban/Spanish and the house salad is one of the best. And here's why: just before serving (always table-side, bless their hearts), the waitperson takes a fresh half lemon, plunges a fork into its cut side, and twists. The fresh lemon juice falls on the salad. Do this at home. You just dress the salad, vinaigrette and all, then do the lemon thingie at the last instant. Sensational! It makes an amazing difference.
In my ceaseless search for the utlimate calamari, I taste tested the Columbia's. Not so bad. Crisp, a very generous amount (note all the whole critters with tentacles!), a decent although too-bland sauce to dip. On a 1 to 10, I'll give it an 8. My friends each had the crab cakes, said they were good: two big ones with sauce. Too bad the St. Petersburg branch of the Columbia's going to be closed for three years; I'd go back for more. Guesss I'll just have to toodle over to Ybor City for a calamari fix.

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